History and presence of Ikarus 280 buses in Praha

Although articulated buses were popular in Western Europe even since mid of 60’s, in Czech Republic was technical progress not so fast. In early 60’s prototype of first Czech articulated bus Škoda 706 RTO-K was built, but this vehicle never comes into batch production. Later, another articulated bus Karosa ŠMK 16.5 was built, but production was stopped after 20 vehicles.
From big cities, mainly from capital Praha (Prague) was a strong demand for high-capacity buses. Especially at this time tramway network was shortened, metro was not yet service. Because Czech industry was unable to built bus of this type, there started search for another bus producer.
At that time, in states of Central and Eastern Europe that were joined into (communist) Council of Mutual Economical Help, a Hungarian company Ikarus was chosen as only one big bus producer. Serial production of articulated bus Ikarus 280 ran already here since 1971 and these buses were exported into varied countries of Central and East Europe. In 1972, one of buses of this type was tested in Praha, but was returned because of weak engine, that didn’t fit well into hilly Praha’s routes.
Around year 1976, there was really serious situation about urban traffic in Praha, because standard buses were unable to handle high amount of passengers. At that time, slightly modified version of Ikarus 280 (280.08) was tested again, and tests were successful at this time, so decision was taken to order these buses for service in Praha’s urban transport.
In end of 1977, first 20 buses Ikarus 280.08 were delivered (they received No.s 4001-4020). They were stored in depot Kačerov and Klíčov and were prepared for regular service.
All 20 buses were standard 4-door articulated buses, painted in very dark red livery.
Their big day came at 16th January 1978 where they started to operate on line No.190 between metro station Budějovická and Jižní Město, big new (and outrageous) housing estate on south of city. One week after, 23rd January they started to operate on line 177 and on 1st February 1978 on line 206.
Their service was a big success, because they were able to transfer 50% more passengers than standard buses, no matter that cost per passenger was higher by 20% than on standard bus.
Next batch of buses was purchased in 1979 (4021-4087), and since that time every year 50-90 new buses was purchased. Since 3rd September 1979 were bus lines 177,189,190 and 206 served exclusively by these buses. In 1985, 315 buses (No.4001-4334, few buses scrapped or destroyed) were in service on 25 lines. All these buses were almost unique, quite rare was only bus No.4071, back half of this bus was after accident replaced by 1-door back half from interurban version from Ik.280.10, so this bus had 3 doors only. Next batch from 1986 (starting at 4335) was painted in light red livery instead of original dark red. Since 1987, modified version of Ikarus 280.08 was delivered, main change was slightly different engine.
At this time, technical quality of this bus was already out-of-date. In end of 80’s new Ikarus 435 was shortly tested but not purchased. Last batch of new Ikarus 280 buses was purchased in 1990 (4523-4592), really last one No.4593 was purchased in February 1991.
Karosa, Czech national bus producer finally released its articulated bus Karosa B-741, based on standard B-731/732 bus in early 90’s. First three buses were of this type were delivered in Praha in end of 1991 (6001-6003) and their service started at New Year 1992. Slowly, but constantly started process of replacement of these buses.
In 1992 another 19 vehicles were purchased. These were not new, but built in 1986-1989 for Pardubice, city approx.100 east from Praha. They received again No.s 4001-4019.
In that year there was about 380 buses of this type in service, in end of 1994 only 270, in 1997 about 110. New Karosa B-741, later also new Karosa B-941 were more popular, cheaper in service, and also were more suitable for Praha’s hilly routes.
At the beginning of year 1999 only approx.35 buses sing their swan song. In March started delivery of 30 new buses Karosa B-941E (modified version with lower floor than sooner), and this means end of Ikarus 280 buses.
Fixed date of final withdrawal was not announced yet, but there is expected to be before 30th June 1999 (during holidays there is always lower amount of articulated buses required). Some nostalgic journeys are prepared, but is clear that after almost 22 years of service only one Ikarus 4382 will be preserved in Muzeum mestske dopravy Praha.
There is hard to judge past of these buses. Although out-of-date, slow, expensive in service, there is still need to keep in mind that without these buses will be impossible regular service in Praha. Buses received many nicknames, and were frequently used. Let’s hope, that new replacement will be successful too…

Overview of delivery:
1977 4000-4019  
1979 4020-4087  
1980 4088-4132  
1981 4133-4163  
1982 4164-4193  
1983 4194-4224  
1984 4225-4304  
1985 4305-4334  
1986 4335-4354 light red livery since that time
1987 4355-4377  
1988 4378-4422  
1989 4423-4522  
1990 4523-4592  
1991 4593  
1992 4001-4019 from DP Pardubice

This page (c) 1999 Richard A.Bílek. All photos and articles by Richard A.Bílek, except where noted. Feel free to spread all information, but do not forget to mention your source.